SEATTLE — A difficult year is coming to a close on a positive note for Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The Washington junior will be handed the John Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end Thursday afternoon during a college football awards show at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Seferian-Jenkins and teammate Bishop Sankey both made the cross-country trip on Wednesday to be part of the show that will air live on ESPN at 4 p.m. Thursday, with a “red-carpet” show starting at 3 on ESPNU.
Sankey, after setting the Washington regular-season rushing record with 1,775 yards, is one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation’s top running back. The winner will be announced during the show.
Seferian-Jenkins was announced as the Mackey winner on Wednesday, after a year in which he pleaded guilty to a March drunken-driving crash, broke a pinkie in an August practice, was suspended for the Huskies’ season opener and saw his offensive statistics cut in half.
Many were surprised last month when he was named one of three finalists for the Mackey Award, along with North Carolina’s Eric Ebron and Florida State’s Nick O’Leary. In a vote of Pac-12 coaches, he was named to the all-conference second team this season (with Arizona State’s Chris Coyle on the first team).
Seferian-Jenkins had 33 receptions for 413 yards — both career lows — and seven touchdowns this season. He was a Mackey finalist in 2012 after posting 69 catches for 852 yards and seven TDs, and he holds virtually every UW record for a tight end.
Coaches praised his improvement as a blocker this season, which helped pave the way for Sankey and UW’s record-breaking offense.
Seferian-Jenkins is the first Husky named a national player of the year since Steve Emtman won both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy after the 1991 season.
Seferian-Jenkins and Sankey, both juniors, are UW’s top NFL prospects. Seferian-Jenkins said last week that he sent paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board, seeking an evaluation, but he said at the time that he hadn’t made up his mind about his future.
Last week, Seferian-Jeknins spoke before an auditorium filled with about 600 students at Ballard High School about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“All I’m trying to do is be me,” he said in an interview afterward. “I’m not trying to get in good graces of anybody. I just want to be myself and be the guy that helps out in the community, because that’s who I am.”
UW staff update: New Huskies coach Chris Petersen is bringing at least four of his assistants from Boise State with him to Seattle.
The Idaho Statesman reported that defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Keith Bhonapha, offensive line coach Chris Strausser and secondary coach Jimmy Lake will join the UW staff. Lake was a UW assistant in 2004.
Petersen has said he hoped to finalize the coaching staff next week.
Marques Tuiasosopo is serving as UW’s interim coach for the Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl against Brigham Young. The Huskies will return to practice on Friday morning.
The rest of the UW assistant coaches appear to be in limbo. Offensive-line coach Dan Cozzetto told KJR he will coach UW in the bowl game, but he said that he has been told he will not be retained on staff after that.